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Bhagavad-gita Chapter 18


Acting with detachment is true renunciation and brings freedom from reaction

This first section of the Eighteenth Chapter summarizes the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gita, the karma- yoga section. The discussion begins by analyzing the respective positions of sannyasa (the giving up of work), and tyaga (the giving tip of the fruits of work). One does not have to give up activity, but must give up fruitive mentality.

Main theme:
Acting with detachment is true renunciation and brings freedom from reaction.

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Sub Points:
A. Regardless of his personal level of advancement, the spiritualist always encourages the
following of purificatory practices (18.5-6).
1. Srila Prabhupada presents the example of a sannyasi. A sannyasi has personally
disavowed the association of the opposite sex. Still, he does not discourage men in
a lower stage of life from marriage. He understands that marriage will purify the
younger man to the point of renunciation. Therefore, he encourages the purificatory practice, although he is himself above it (18.5).
2. One should not renounce sacrificial activities, but he should renounce attachment
to the results of such sacrifices. He should perform sacrifice for the purification
that it brings (18.6).
B. Renunciation is classified in the modes according to its impetus (18.7-10).
The conclusion of sankhya and Vedanta: Actions directed by the Supersoul bring freedom from reaction. (18.13-18)

Main theme:
Understanding that one is merely one of the five factors of action, and that the Supersoul is the main factor, a person will follow the dictation of the Supersoul. Such action is liberating.

Sub points:
In the previous section, Lord Krsna has summarized the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gita Now in this section He will summarize the final six chapters, jnana-yoga. The analysis mainly consists of Krsna's description of the five factors of action. This description ultimately leads one to appreciate the position of the Supersoul and take shelter of His direction.

A. The five factors of action (18.13-17).

1. The Lord cites the Vedanta as authority for His description of the five factors of
action. Of course, the Lord has no need to cite any other authority other than
Himself, but as an acarya, the Lord is setting the example for others to follow.
a). The place of action (adhistanam) - the material body.
b). The performer (karta) - the soul, whose desires bring about bodily activity.
c). The various senses (karanam).
d). The endeavor (cesta) - the effort to move the senses.
e). The Supersoul (daivam).
B. Five items influence the performance and the outcome of an activity. Understanding this,
one should be free from the illusion that he is the only doer, and he should follow the direction of the Supersoul, the supreme factor.
B. The Supersoul is the most important factor, as He can control and influence all
of the other factors. When one comes to Krsna consciousness, he takes shelter of the Supersoul's direction in the heart. Doing so, the soul is not responsible for his activities, as he is acting on the basis of higher dictation.

The entanglement of the three modes (18.19-40)

Main theme:
The three modes condition all activities of the material world.

Worshipping the Lord through one's occupational work is true renunciation and
brings freedom from reactions (18.41-48)

Main theme:
By utilizing one's karmic propensities in the dutiful service of the Lord (through varnasrama), one will advance toward liberation.

Sub points:
The previous section has described in detail how the three modes condition activities. In His conclusion to that section, text 40, Krsna explains that, "There is no being, either here or among the demigods in the higher planetary systems, which is freed from these three modes born of material nature."

Then the question may arise: "If all beings within the material world are conditioned by the modes, how does one get out?" In response to such a question, the Lord describes the varnasrama system. In this system, one acts according to his inherited modes of nature, but does so in regulated service to the Lord. As one progresses in dutiful, detached work, he is elevated through the modes, until he is qualified to give up work and exclusively cultivate knowledge.

A. Although every activity has faults, one should not use this as an excuse to take up another's occupation (18.47-48).
1. In each of the four varnas, one must perform some acts that are contaminated by
material nature. This is inevitable. But by performing one's occupational duties for the
Lord's service, all the defects become purified.

From jnana-yoga to pure devotional service (18.49-55)
After describing how the varnasrama system purifies one of his conditioning, Lord Krsna explains the stage where one can give up prescribed duties, jnana-yoga. One can take to jnana-yoga when he is not driven to act by his modes, and can pursue spiritual life through inactive meditation. Jnana-yoga leads to Brahman realization, when one realizes himself as qualitatively one with the Supreme. During the process of jnana-yoga (described in verses 51-53), one purifies himself by use of intelligence. By analysis and discrimination, one frees himself of identification with the body and the mind. In this way, one becomes liberated from material nature.

Lord Krsna describes this state (text 54) as joyful and beyond material desires. And yet, Lord Krsna continues to explain that realization does not stop there. At that stage of Brahman realization one practices pure devotional service. This is important evidence to show that bhakti-yoga is a higher platform than jnana-yoga.

Verse 55 confirms and intensifies this fact. Only by devotional service can one understand Lord Krsna and enter into the kingdom of God. Devotional service occurs in two states: pre-liberation, and post-liberation. In the pre-liberated state, bhakti is a means of purification by which one becomes freed of false ego. After liberation, bhakti is the natural quality of the soul in its eternal relationship with Krsna.

Main theme:
The perfection of jnana-yoga is to understand the nature of the self and it's relationship with Krsna. Thus bhakti is the culmination of jnana.

Working in pure devotional service (18.56-60)
Krsna described how one who is self-realized could come to pure devotional service. Now, Lord Krsna describes activities in devotional service. Krsna will describe the utter necessity of acting in devotion, as well as the result of doing so.

Main theme:
One must act in devotion, following Krsna's dictation; if one does not, one will undoubtedly act in illusion.

Sub points:
A. The devotee acting to serve Krsna is under His protection, and is assured of perfection by
the Lord's grace (18.56-58).
1. Srila Prabhupada explains that one should follow the direction of the representative
of Krsna in the same way that one would follow Krsna Himself. In this way, he gives
practical guidance for one who wishes to have Krsna's direction and protection even
though Krsna is not personally present.
2. The same theme is presented here as in verse 8.14, 9.30-31, and 12.7: the Lord
Himself protects one who acts under His direction. One therefore needs no means of
purification other than devotional service to Sri Krsna. Lord Krsna Himself will see to
the advancement and salvation of His devotee, as He takes direct personal interest in the life of His devotees.

B. Ultimate freedom is seen in the inner choice to serve Krsna or turn away from Krsns (18.59-60).
1. Throughout the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna's main dilemma is whether he should fight in
the war or turn away. But in this section, Krsna explains that Arjuna will fight in any case, due to his ksatriya conditioning.
2. It may therefore be said that Krsna has not exactly spoken Bhagavad-gita to
convince Arjuna to fight - that will happen anyway by Arjuna's modes of nature.
What Krsna wants from Arjuna is surrender.
3. For Arjuna, fighting in service and submission to Krsna is entirely different
from fighting due to the modes of nature. By surrendering to Krsna through the
performance of his prescribed duties, Arjuna is acting according to his
constitutional nature, and is protected by the Lord's internal potency. Not
surrendering to Krsna and acting according to his modes would still
entangle Arjuna in the quagmire of material existence.

Surrender to the Supersoul (18.61-63)
Krsna describes the living entity as being carried on a machine made of the material energy (the body). Krsna also describes the Supersoul, who is benevolently accompanying the soul on his journey (18.61).

This explanation serves to reinforce the understanding that the soul's real realm of influence is not within the material nature. He is like a passenger in a vehicle, which is composed of and controlled by the material energy. The soul's real realm of influence is understood when Krsna instructs Arjuna to surrender to the Supersoul (18.62). Again, it is established that the freewill of the soul is within the choice to serve Krsna directly by following His dictation, or to serve indirectly through the material energy. In any case, one is subordinate to Krsna. By serving the Supersoul directly, however, one will be in full knowledge, and will be eligible to enter the spiritual world. If one turns away from Krsna, he attempts to live in the illusion that he is independent. Therefore, he must remain within the jurisdiction of Maya. Krsna still controls such a person, but from a distance, by the three modes of nature.

Verse 63 is a fitting conclusion to this section. Krsna tells Arjuna to deliberate upon what he has heard, and choose what to do. Srila Prabhupada explains that this verse indicates that God does not interfere with the minute independence of the living entity.

Main theme:
Perfection is available by focusing on the instructions of the Supersoul in the heart.

Culmination of confidential knowledge: Become Krsna's pure devotee (18.64-66)

Main theme:
The highest realization in transcendental knowledge is to re-establish one's relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Sub Points:
In one sense, the Bhagavad gita could have finished with text 18.63. Lord Krsna has left Arjuna with the choice to accept His direction or neglect His direction. Still, because of Sri Krsna's compassion for Arjuna, He speaks on, giving Arjuna deeper impetus to surrender.

Lord Krsna clearly explains the essential meaning of Bhagavad-gita: one should serve Him in full conviction and
not concern himself with any other form of dharma. One need only serve Krsna, as Krsna undoubtedly
tends to all of the needs of His surrendered devotees.

A. The confidentiality of spiritual knowledge is based on how much it reveals the relationship of
the Soul and the Supersou1 (18.64). Out of all of the various degrees of spiritual knowledge
presented in Bhagavad-gita, knowing one's relationship with Krsna is the deepest and most
B. Any form of preliminary purification is not necessary for one who wishes to take to pure
bhakti, bhakti-yoga itself is the most purifying (18.66).
1. One may be an aspiring transcendentalist, but he may feel that he is not qualified to take
to the direct worship of the Lord. Rather, he feels that he should practice some other
form of elevation, and then come to direct devotional service. This is unnecessary. When
one sincerely takes to bhaktj-yoga, Lord Krsna Himself takes the responsibility to amend
the devotee's faults. Thus Krsna assures Arjuna, "moksayisyami ma sucah."
2. All forms of religion, yoga, and dharma are meant to gradually elevate one to his eternal
position of devotional service to the Lord. Therefore, one should not avoid directly
serving Krsna on the plea of other religious or social obligations.

Preaching and studying the Bhagavad-gita (18.67-71)
Now that Krsna has concluded His Gita He gives some guidelines about spreading that message. Mainly, the Gita should be discussed among devotees. Lord Krsna has already explained that the only way to know Him is through devotion (11.53-4, 18.55, etc.) and those who are not devoted may make offenses if they try to artificially pose as knower of the Gita

Main theme:
There are auspicious results for anyone who encounters the sacred message of Bhagavad-gita, whether through preaching, studying or hearing.

Arjuna is firmly fixed (18.72-73)
In the context of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna represents all living entities who are faced with the supreme decision of whether to serve Krsna or to turn away. By properly hearing the science of Bhagavad-gita from Krsna or His representative, one understands fully his constitutional position as Krsna's servant, and he thus serves Krsna in full devotion, free from misgivings. Thus Arjuna, fixed in knowledge, is fully prepared to fight for Krsna.

Main theme:
The result of hearing Bhagavad-gita properly is full surrender to Lord Krsna.

Sanjaya's predictions (18.74-78)
The Bhagavad-gita is not like an ordinary book from some mundane author. It is the Lord's own potency of knowledge by which He enlightens the fallen souls. One who studies the Gita, therefore, experiences direct association with Lord Krsna. One who hears properly becomes Krsna conscious; he can see Krsna in all things, therefore his life becomes exciting and wondrous at every step.

When one is Krsna conscious, he appreciates Krsna’s position as the supreme shelter of all. It is Krsna’s will that is supreme. Therefore, the devotee, by surrendering to that will, will find only victory, and never find defeat.

Main theme:
The Bhagavad-gita is a magnificent, glorious and enlivening message.


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